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Oct-11-2012 00:43printcomments

How Can We Maintain Communal Harmony Between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya in Myanmar?

To maintain communal harmony between these two ethnic groups, the restoration of the Rohingya’s rights is essential.

Images of starvation among Rohingya people in Burma
Images of starvation among Rohingya people in Burma

(SITTWE AKYAB, Myanmar) - Arakan State is our homelands

We sing our songs with the same band We, Rakhine-Rohingya, are mutual friends Arakan is our only common land

Tension between Rakhine and Rohingya in the Arakan State of Myanmar, increase day by day. Rakhines show their hatred openly and demand segregation, as Rohingya people have been trying to reconstruct communal harmony between Rakhine and Rohingya.

These two brothers have been living in Arakan State harmoniously for centuries. The main allegation of Rakhine towards Rohingya is denial of Rohingya as their fellow citizens.

International communities are helping to reduce tension and build a peaceful Arakan. To maintain communal harmony between these two ethnic groups, the restoration of the Rohingya’s rights is essential. Without it, the very idea of a peaceful community might be a legend.

Two brothers, Rakhine and Rohingya, share the same place.

Rakhine believe in Theravada Buddhism and Rohingya believe in Islam; religion is not a barrier for these two brothers.

Buddhism emerged as a World religion essentially of peace and humanism influencing the religious, social and cultural lives of the hundreds of millions of people in the vast Asian continent and the world at large.

The religion of Islam which means peace, spread very fast in the world including Southwest and Southeast Asia between 8th and 14th century A.D through trading, no Muslim soldiers went to those areas.

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, there are several monasteries which lean to Myanmar  for religious inspiration and a number of schools in which children learn to read Burmese and Pali, an ancient Buddhist language. In 1576 Bengal became a province of the mighty Mughal Empire, which ushered in another golden age in India. The National Museum of Dhaka has a big hall reserved for Buddhist historical objects and contains unique sculptures in stone, metal and wood.

During the Burmese invasion in Arakan there was a mass migration of the Arakanese called Rakhin to southern Chittagong. After the Burmese war, a number of people left Chittagong to settle in Burma especially in the Akyab district.

The total population of Bangladesh in 2004 is about 125 million with only 1 million Buddhists Tibeto-Burmese tribes, living in Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Comilla, Noakhali, Cox's Bazar and Barisal. According to historians, the Tibeto-Burman consists of 3 tribes - the Pyu, the Kanyan and the Thet or Chakma. The Chakma tribes are living in in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Kanyan tribe is known as the Rakhine group who still live in the South-Eastern part of Chittagong. Kanyan came from the Aryavarta or the country of the Aryans which is practically identical to the country later known as the Majjhimadesh or Madhyadesh in Pali literature.

The mid-19th Century was a turning point in the religious history of the Buddhists of Chittagong which in fact was the home of Buddhism in the then Bengal and undivided India. In that very dark age, the Buddhists were steeped in deep superstitions. The Sangharaj of neighboring Arakan most Venerable Saramedha Mahathero came on a chance to visit Chittagong in 1856.

Famine is affecting all
ages in the Rohingya community

He was shocked to see the condition of Buddhism with Tantric rituals and worship of false gods and goddesses. The Sangharaja Sramedha again visited Chittagong and Chittagong Hill Tracts in 1864 and took upon himself the task of reforming the prevailing Buddhism in accordance with Dhamma and Binaya of the Tripitaka.

Some Muslim prayer halls in Chittagong called Badar Mukam can be seen as you can see along the coastal areas of Arakan; in Sittwe there is one Badar Mukam which was built in 1727 , for many years, Badar Mukam of Sittwe was a Muslim Mosque, Rakhine authority removed Muslims community around the Badar Mukam and converted it into a Buddhist temple but you can see Islamic Membar stage inside .

In 1971, the East Pakistan came into being to be Bangladesh through a bloody war. In 1972, a Buddhist temple named Dharmarajik Bouddha Vihara was established in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. In addition to this, Shakyamuni Buddhist Vihara, in Dhaka was also established. At present, there are 4 Buddhist temples in Dhaka.

Since 1965, Muslims are not allowed to build new Mosque, decorate old Mosques and banned all social and religious movements. Rohingya have never blamed Buddhists and Buddhism for the lost of their rights, they blamed only military regime.

Existence of the word Rohingya

The name “Rohingya” derives from Rohang/Roshang, an earlier name for Arakan. Dr. Michael W. Charney writes, “the earliest recorded use of an ethnonym immediately recognizable as Rohingya is an observation by Francis Buchanan in 1799. As he explains, a dialect that was derived from Hindi “…is that spoken by the Mohammedans, who have long been settled in Arakan, and who call themselves Roainga, or native of Arakan”. He further writes, “it can be asserted…that one claim of the Buddhist school in Rakhaing historiography, that Rohingya was an invention of the colonial period, is contradicted by the evidence.”

According to “The Crescent in Arakan of an Israeli expert Moshe Yegar “,the Arakan king of that period, Thirithudamma (1622-1638) had a Muslim counselor or doctor. Writers and poets appeared amongst the Arakanese Muslims, especially during the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries and there were even some Muslim court poets at the courts of the Arakanese kings. These poets and writers wrote in Persian and Arabic origin the mixed language, Rohinga, which they developed among themselves and which was a mixture of Bengali, Urdu, and Arakanese.

Since 1970s, Rohingya are not allowed to be the government servants; police, teacher, military, immigration, custom, worker in labor department, nurse, doctor etc. Deprive of Rohingya’s rights caused imbalanced communal stabilities.

Growth of Rohingya population

Rakhine authority and military regime accused that Rohingya people increase in high rate, they blamed Rohingya came from Bangladesh very recently. Many official documents proved that Rohingya are origins of Arakan State.

Mr. Paton, the British ruler of Arakan, in his report of 1825 stated that the total population of Arakan was:- Maghs 60,000, Muslims 30,000 and Burman 10,000.

Copy and photo editor for Tim King



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